Thursday, June 27, 2013

THE KSAR OF AIT BENHADDOU

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Aït Benhaddou – a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco – is a fortified mud-brick also called a ksar, on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Drâa on a hill along the Ounila River. Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and several films, such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, Alexander, Babel, Kingdom of Heaven and Prince of Persia have been shot there as well as some scenes from Game of Thrones. Today, although only inhabited by around half-a-dozen families, visitors are attracted by the number and variety of its kasbahs (mud-built structures), some of which are thought to date back to the sixteenth century.

The Ksar has a high defensive earthen wall with angle towers and baffle gate, surrounding a remarkable ensemble of dwellings, with narrow alleys climbing the hillside. There is also communal areas that include a mosque, a public square, a loft and two cemeteries. Some of the homes of the wealthy traders are grand multi-storey structures with quite elaborate decorative motifs and angular corner towers resembling small castles. On the top of the hill there is large fortified granary, or agadir.

Historically, traders carrying spices, slaves, and gold on the Sahara Trade Route passed by Aït Benhaddou and its Ksours on their way to Timbuktu or the Western Sahara. Today, the old trade route is no longer in use and the Kasbahs have turned into a popular tourist destination. The village  of Aït Benhaddou is divided in two parts. The modern part is filled with tourist shops and parking spaces. Upon crossing the Oued (dry riverbed), you will enter into the Ksar, the real highlight.

The architectural style of the buildings are well preserved because the earthen structures were build to adapt to the climatic conditions of the environment, however it does need regular maintenance since its abandonment by most of its inhabitants (10 families still live inside the ksar). Today, under the protection of CERKAS (Centre for the conservation and rehabilitation of the architectural heritage of atlas and sub-atlas zones) the site is able to maintain its authenticity. Various workshops are held where local local people are taught how to maintain the site and various management committees have been established.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

UNUSUAL HOTEL #6: CAMBODIA’S INCREDIBLE 4- RIVERS FLOATING LODGE

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The 4-Rivers Floating Lodge is a boutique resort in Cambodia, situated in Tatai, next to the Thai border and halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. It is a place of unspoilt virgin forest, rare orchids and fragrant frangipani. The startling colours and calls of birds of paradise, secretive jungle creatures and perfumed air of peace and solitude is as close to Eden as you can get.

Rich in natural beauty, Tatai River is your highway to the wonders of the Cardamoms and Southeast Asia’s largest coastal mangrove. According to the Wildlife Alliance, World Wildlife Fund and other concerned charities, this remarkable rainforest ecoregion is considered to harbour more than 100 mammal species including numerous endangered animals such as the clouded leopard, pileated gibbon and Malaysian sun bear. The lush forested slopes of the Cardamoms are a perfect hiding place for the rare Javan rhinoceros, Indochinese tiger and Asian elephant.

The resort aims to spoil their guests endlessly with so many activities and luxuries. Guests can embark on trekking trips into the jungle and will have many opportunities to explore the untouched tropical rainforests. Kayak trips down the river with experienced guides will lead guests through the mangrove waterways that reach back into the jungle. Guests can also try their hand at fishing. Back at the resort guest can indulge with a hydro massage, go on a romantic sunset cruise, take a dip in the river and lounge at the restaurant, to name a few. 


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POPEYE'S REAL-LIFE VILLAGE

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Tucked away in the small European country of Malta, is a place you’d probably never expect to find in the real world – Popeye’s Village. The village, located in Anchor Bay, also known as Sweethaven village, was the actual set built for the 1980 musical film Popeye, produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions and starring Robin Williams. Today, its open to the public as a theme park and is popular family vacation spot and one of Malta’s major tourist attractions.

The construction of the film set started in June 1979. A construction crew of 165 working over seven months was needed to build the village, which consists of nineteen authentic wooden buildings. Hundreds of logs and several thousand wooden planks were imported from the Netherlands, while wood shingles used in the construction of the roof tops were imported from Canada. Eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint were also used in construction.In addition, a 200–250 foot breakwater was built around Anchor Bay's mouth to protect the set from high seas during the shooting.

Thing you can expect when visiting the village are shows, rides, boat ride and museums, as well as play houses where children can climb and explore the village. Children may also get to meet the main characters from the show such as Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto and Wimpy. Visitors can enjoy a twenty-minute boat trip around Anchor Bay where one can photograph the scenery.
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